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College of Information and Communications

Faculty and Staff

Tara Marie Mortensen, Ph.D.

Title: Associate Professor
Department: School of Journalism and Mass Communications
College of Information and Communications
Website: Student Design Work
Phone: 803-514-7015
Office: School of Journalism and Mass Communications
800 Sumter Street, Room 123
Columbia, SC 29208

Curriculum Vitae



B.S., Mass Communication, Black Hills State University
M.S., Journalism, South Dakota State University 
Ph.D., Journalism, University of Oklahoma


Dr. Tara Mortensen’s research examines visual news in a time of decreased professional visual journalists, including content creators, the content itself, and audience perceptions. A secondary area of research includes visual stereotyping. 


Mortensen teaches graphics-related courses in the visual communication sequence, including Principles of Visual Communication, Graphics for Visual Communication, Informational Graphics for the Mass Media, Design of Online Content, and Capstone Portfolio.

Recent Publications

Mortensen, T., Piacentine, C, Wen, T., & Bost, N. (2023). An eye-tracking analysis of negative and positive emotional staff and stock photos in the news. Online at the Journal of Mass Media Ethics. 

McDermott, B., Mortensen, T., and Wertz, B. (2023). Measuring the Effect of Presentational Context and Image Authorship on the Credibility Perceptions of Newsworthy Images. Forthcoming in Social Media & Society.

Mortensen, T. M., McDermott, B. P., & Ejaz, K. (2023). Measuring photo credibility in journalistic contexts: Scale development and application to staff and stock photography. Journalism Practice, 17(6), 1158-1177.

Lough, K., & Mortensen, T. (2022). Individual and routine-level influences of visual content on the covers of U.S. front-page images: Wire photographs, photojournalism, race and gender. Journalism Practice, 17(9), 2015-2034.

Mortensen, T, Ejaz, K., & Pardun, C. (2020). Quantifying Gender Stereotypes? Visually-Assessing Stereotypes of Women in People Magazine. TheJournal of Magazine and New Media Research, 21(1).  

Mortensen, T., Moscowitz, L., Wan, A. & Yang, A. (2020).  The marijuana user in US news media: An examination of visual stereotypes of race, culture, criminality and normification. Visual Communication, 19(2), 231-255.

Jang, M., Mortensen, T., & Liu, J. (2019). Does media literacy help identification of fake news? Information literacy helps, but other literacies don’t. American Behavioral Scientist. 0002764219869406

McDermott, B., Mortensen, T., Ejaz, K., & Haun, D. (2019). I was doing a good deed: Exploring the motivations of photo story subjects in granting photojournalists access. Journalism Practice, 13(8), 916-921.


Mortensen is heavily involved in the Visual Communication division of AEJMC. She has served as division vice head, head, communications coordinator, and currently is serving as the logo chair.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.